1 Scotland analysis: Fiscal policy and sustainability May 2014
2 Scotland analysis: Fiscal policy and sustainability Presented to Parliament by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury by Command of Her Majesty May 2014 Cm 8854
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4 Contents Executive summary 5 Introduction 13 Chapter 1 Scotland s fiscal outlook 17 Chapter 2 Fiscal consequences of independence 35 Annex A Projecting the long-run public finances 63 Annex B Bibliography 75
6 Executive summary The United Kingdom is one of the most successful fiscal, monetary and political unions in history. It is a union that has brought benefits to all parts of the UK. The UK s fiscal union enables all nations and regions of the UK to pool financial resources, benefit from shared public spending, manage financial risks and borrow as a single and credible participant in international financial markets. Since the Scotland Act 1998, the UK Government has devolved responsibility for some 60 per cent of Scotland s public spending to the Scottish Parliament. And following the Scotland Act 2012, the Scottish Parliament will be responsible for funding around one-third of its spending. Fiscal devolution is taking place while retaining the overall coherence and integration of the UK s tax and spending system. Independence would mean the end of devolution and the UK s fiscal union. This paper examines the outlook for Scotland s public finances and sets out the financial implications of independence for Scottish households and businesses. It finds that Scotland s future public finances would be substantially stronger were Scotland to remain part of the UK. This conclusion is consistent with findings from independent experts such as the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR). The analysis shows that the benefit for people in Scotland of remaining part of the UK the UK Dividend is worth around 1,400 per person 1 every year over the 20 years from This is the amount that each person in Scotland would be better off by every year, from lower taxes and sustained public services as part of the UK. Scotland s current public finances Scotland s onshore economic output per person (i.e. excluding the offshore oil and gas sector) is the third highest of any part of the UK and is only slightly smaller than the UK average. As a resuit, it has generated slightly lower tax revenues per person, excluding oil, than the UK average since devolution in Over the same time period public spending per person in Scotland has been around 10 per cent higher than the UK average. This means that Scotland s budget deficit excluding oil has been significantly higher than the UK average. In the event of independence, the allocation of North Sea oil and gas revenues would be subject to negotiation. On the basis of a geographic apportionment, the additional tax revenue from the North Sea had been, on average, broadly equivalent to the additional spending in Scotland. 1 In prices. Summed across the Scottish population, this equates to 4.4% of Scottish GDP, which is the permanent adjustment required to borrowing (excluding net interest payments).
7 6 Scotland analysis: Fiscal policy and sustainability Therefore, until recently, Scotland s fiscal position had been broadly the same, on average, as the UK s since devolution in In other words, Scotland s fiscal position already relies on spending all of the revenues from a geographic share of the North Sea. So there would be no fiscal benefit from independence: the revenues can t be spent twice. Instead, because the revenues from the North Sea have fallen sharply, but public spending has not, Scotland benefits from being part of the UK. Within the Union, that benefit will continue to increase, as declining North Sea revenues are smoothed across the whole of the UK, without Scottish public spending having to fall. As part of the UK, the UK s fiscal union also shields Scotland from the volatile nature of oil and gas revenues. Scotland s fiscal position has been much more volatile on a year-by-year basis due to its greater exposure to large fluctuations in North Sea revenues. As part of the UK, the Scottish Government receives stable and secure levels of funding, and is able to pursue its own policies in relation to key public services such as health, education, housing, policing and transport. Scottish Government estimates show the effect of volatile and declining oil receipts on Scotland s fiscal position. Largely as a result of a 40 per cent annual fall in oil receipts, Scotland s budget deficit in was around one percentage point of GDP larger than for the UK as a whole. 2 And oil receipts fell by a further 25 per cent in As tax revenues from oil and gas continue to decline, this gap is expected to widen. Independent experts 3 forecast Scotland s fiscal position in to be over 5 per cent of GDP in deficit in , while the UK s deficit is forecast to be less than half this level and falling. This is equivalent to a gap of 1,000 per person in Scotland, on day one of independence. As is discussed later, policy action of more than this amount would be required to deal with the subsequent fiscal challenges an independent Scotland would face, and to fund the additional direct costs of independence. A noteworthy lesson from history, not least the eurozone crisis, is that governments who are not open, transparent and credible about their fiscal positions will not win the trust of investors. In the absence of up-to-date tax and spending projections from the Scottish Government, HM Treasury has used this 1,000 per person starting gap in its projections, based on the consensus view from independent experts. HM Treasury projections over the next 20 years are constrained by the absence of any long-term fiscal analysis from the Scottish Government. Instead, the underlying data, methodology and assumptions are underpinned by analysis from a range of independent experts. The outlook for Scotland s public finances The public finance projections in this paper follow the same approach taken by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) in its Fiscal Sustainability Report (FSR) for the UK. The projections show that, in the years ahead, an independent Scottish state would face a substantially greater fiscal challenge than if Scotland remains part of the UK. This conclusion is consistent with analysis from the IFS, 4 NIESR 5 and other independent experts. These greater fiscal challenges are driven primarily by: the continued decline in North Sea oil and gas tax revenues; and a more rapidly ageing population than the rest of the UK, driven by a shrinking working age population. The effect will be to place increasing pressures on pensions and other age-related spending, and reduce economic growth and tax revenues. 2 Scottish Government, GERS , and historical series, March Including the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the Centre for Public Policy for Regions. 4 IFS (2013), Fiscal sustainability of an independent Scotland 5 NIESR (2014), Assets and liabilities and Scottish independence
8 Executive summary 7 Managing the fiscal effects of the benefits of natural resources and an ageing population are exactly the sorts of challenges that fiscal unions, such as the UK s, are able to smooth over long periods of time. For example: differences in regional demographics; the benefits of windfalls in coal and oil revenues; and lower debt interest costs from low borrowing rates, have and continue to be shared across the UK. At various times in the history of the Union, different nations will have paid in or drawn out. But over time, everyone is stronger for having the insurance and economies of scale that the UK s fiscal union, large economy and credible institutions provide. Resources and risks are more easily pooled and shared across the UK s 31 million taxpayers and 4.8 million businesses 6 than they would be by Scotland s 2.6 million taxpayers and 320,000 businesses. 7 Sharing these future fiscal challenges together is part of the UK Dividend for people in Scotland. The effects of independence on Scotland s public finances In the event of independence, Scotland would need to establish its own tax system and fund all public spending commitments, including through borrowing from investors in international financial markets when necessary. Transition costs and (as estimated by independent experts) higher interest rates for government borrowing have been included in the public finance projections in this paper. Transition costs are estimated to be 1 per cent of GDP although the costs of setting up new institutions may well be more, and the premium on government borrowing costs of 1.2 per cent is in the middle of the range estimated by NIESR. However, the NIESR analysis assumed that an independent Scotland was within a formal sterling currency union with the continuing UK. Since NIESR published its estimates the UK Government has received published HM Treasury advice stating that, On the basis of the scale of the challenges, and the Scottish Government s proposals for addressing them, HM Treasury would advise the UK Government against entering into a currency union. 8 As a result, the Chancellor of the Exchequer set out that, I could not as Chancellor recommend that we could share the pound with an independent Scotland. 9 The Chief Secretary to the Treasury and the Shadow Chancellor have both taken the same view. The fiscal analysis in this paper reinforces that conclusion. As set out in Scotland analysis: Assessment of a sterling currency union, the position of the public finances matters for the stability of a currency union because it reflects governments fiscal capacity to respond to an economic shock. The projections in this paper for persistent and substantial deficits and elevated debt levels in an independent Scotland are one of several key factors that weigh strongly against agreeing to a currency union. This is because it would raise serious questions about the ability of the governments to sustain the currency union under stress. 6 Taxpayer data for from HMRC s Personal Incomes Statistics. Business data from BIS (2013), Business population estimates for the UK and regions 7 Taxpayer data for available on request from HMRC s Personal Incomes Statistics. Business data from BIS (2013), Business population estimates for the UK and regions 8 Scotland analysis: Assessment of a sterling currency union 9 Chancellor on the prospect of a currency union with an independent Scotland
9 8 Scotland analysis: Fiscal policy and sustainability The effects of the current Scottish Government s proposed policies For an independent Scottish state, HM Treasury public finance projections also include the firm policy commitments set out by the current Scottish Government in its recent White Paper. The projections therefore go further than the IFS report on Scotland s fiscal sustainability, which did not incorporate the impact of the current Scottish Government s policy commitments or all the additional direct costs of independence. Where possible, estimates of the direct fiscal costs of the policies proposed by the Scottish Government in Scotland s Future 10 are included in the public finance calculations. Estimates of the possible economic effects of these policies, which may reduce their fiscal cost, are also included. The policies accounted for in the fiscal calculations include: a lower defence spending budget of 2.5 billion, including the savings from not contributing to the costs of Trident replacement; a reduction in the headline rate of Corporation Tax to 3 per cent below the UK rate (with no continuing UK Government response); additional childcare provision; a 50 per cent reduction in Air Passenger Duty; and higher net migration. 11 The total direct fiscal cost of the Scottish Government s first and second term policy firm commitments is estimated to be 1.6 billion a year (in prices), with a small offsetting increase in revenue, attributable to the cut in corporation tax and an impact on employment from the childcare policy. Incorporating these effects, the sum total effect of the Scottish government s policies would be to widen further the gap between an independent Scotland s public finances relative to the UK if Scotland remains part of the Union. The UK Dividend : Lower taxes and higher public spending for people of Scotland as part of the UK As such, a part of the UK, Scotland is projected to be able to have lower tax or higher spending than under independence. This UK Dividend is estimated to be worth 1,400 per person in Scotland 12 in each year from onwards. Under independence, the loss of the UK Dividend would mean 1,400 per year for each Scottish person in higher taxes and lower public spending (over and above the current UK Government s fiscal consolidation plans). The UK Dividend comes from a number of different components, as shown in the chart below. The majority of the dividend comes from higher public spending in Scotland and lower onshore tax revenues at present and by , that are not covered by higher oil revenues. Over the following 20 years, remaining part of the UK would insure people in Scotland against the fiscal costs of an ageing population and declining oil revenues. The UK Dividend also includes people in Scotland avoiding the direct costs that would come with independence. These include the costs of higher interest rates for an independent Scottish state to borrow, the net costs of setting up new institutions, and the net costs of funding the Scottish Government s White Paper policies (including the potential economic benefits). 10 Scottish Government (2013), Scotland s Future: Your guide to an independent Scotland 11 The projections for an independent Scotland use the ONS 2012 principal migration assumption of 15,500 net migrants into Scotland per year in the long-term. The projections for the UK use the ONS 2012 low migration assumption. The low migration assumption for Scotland is for 7,000 net migrants per year in the long-term. 12 In prices.
10 Executive summary 9 The UK Dividend of 1,400 per Scottish person explained 2,000 s per person (in prices) 1,500 1, , Lower UK borrowing costs Set-up costs and net fiscal effects of White paper policies avoided Costs of ageing absorbed across the UK Long-term oil decline absorbed across the UK Lower Scottish onshore tax revenues absorbed Higher public spending in Scotland Oil revenues shared across UK population, rather than geographically UK Dividend Source: HM Treasury calculations. These estimates take a favourable view of some of the likely fiscal consequences of independence. The Dividend from staying part of the UK could be relatively higher if, for example: Scottish migration in the longer term was lower than the 15,500 net in migrants per year assumed in these projections. For example, the IFS assume a long-run immigration rate of 7,000 net in-migrants each year; 13,14 the premium on government borrowing was greater than 1.2 percentage points, as many independent experts predict it could be; the legislated rise in the State Pension age is delayed in an independent Scotland; productivity growth was lower for Scotland than that assumed by the OBR for the UK; as has often been the case in recent years, oil revenue falls short of the OBR s forecasts; or the projection period considered was longer than 20 years, since, as the IFS show, the gap between the public finances of the UK and Scotland is projected to widen beyond An independent Scotland s relatively large budget deficit at the point of independence would mean that Scotland s debt as a per cent of GDP would be likely to be on an increasing path from year one. In contrast, the OBR forecasts UK debt to be falling from and the UK to be in budget surplus by In the event of independence, the allocation of the national debt would be subject to negotiation. The UK Government has stated its clear position that an independent Scottish state would become responsible for a fair and proportionate share of the UK s current liabilities. A population split of national debt at the end of , would mean an ONS population projections 14 If the government of an independent Scotland was unable to influence the age profile of the immigrant population this could lead to greater numbers of immigrants who were economically inactive and thus not paying taxes.
11 10 Scotland analysis: Fiscal policy and sustainability independent Scotland took on debt of around 74 per cent of its GDP. 15 HM Treasury projections use this as the debt starting point for an independent Scotland. They show that due to the persistently large annual budget deficits, debt quickly reaches unsustainable levels without policy action. The Scottish Government has argued that an independent Scotland would achieve higher levels of growth as an independent country, which would reduce the size of the required fiscal consolidation. HM Treasury projections incorporate estimates of the potential positive economic effects from the Scottish Government s White Paper policies. Even taking these effects into account, growth in an independent Scotland would need to be over 50 per cent higher on average every year over the first 20 years of independence to offset the debt gap from independence. This would be greater than anything Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, or the USA has achieved over the last 20 years. 16 This is likely to be a favourable estimate of the additional growth required since it assumes that public spending does not increase in line with the additional GDP (as has typically been the case in advanced economies), yet tax receipts do. In fact, public spending is assumed to be lower still due to debt interest savings from the higher tax revenues. As such, public spending is assumed to be at 36 per cent of GDP in , instead of over 48 per cent in HM Treasury s projections. For comparison, the level of public spending in the US in 2013 was 38 per cent of GDP. Scotland s tax and spending Under independence, the loss of the UK Dividend of 1,400 per Scottish person per year could come in a number of forms of higher taxes and reduced public services. Maintaining public services To continue to provide similar levels of public services over the next 20 years, an independent Scotland would need to increase all onshore tax revenues by 13 per cent from the start of independence. To illustrate the scale of this increase, 17 this would be equivalent to setting a 28 per cent basic rate of income tax, a 26 per cent standard rate of VAT, and increasing the main duties (on alcohol, tobacco, fuel and vehicles) by almost 40 per cent. As part of the UK, Scotland will be able to support similar levels of public services with lower levels of tax. In particular, while the Scotland Act 2012 will provide the Scottish Government with further powers to vary tax and spending as part of the UK, an independent Scotland would need to increase tax by 1,400 per person just to maintain its current level of spending. Maintaining levels of tax To maintain similar levels of taxation over the next 20 years, an independent Scotland would need to reduce public spending by 11 per cent. To illustrate the scale of this change, this is equivalent to almost two thirds of Scotland s health spending. As part of the UK, with similar levels of tax, Scotland will therefore be able to continue to support higher levels of public spending by continuing to pool tax revenues. 15 This relates to public sector net debt excluding the temporary effects of financial interventions. 16 Based on data from IMF (2014) World Economic Outlook Database 17 The illustrative increases in tax rates are based on detailed HMRC outturn figures for Scotland and aim to take into account resulting changes in behaviour that reduce the additional revenue generated. However, for such large increases in rates these behavioural effects may be underestimated.
12 Executive summary 11 Scotland as part of the UK 1,000 lower deficit per Scottish person in An independent Scotland 1,000 higher deficit per Scottish person in Costs to taxpayer of setting up new institutions Direct costs of independence avoided Net costs to taxpayer from Scottish Government policies for independence (including the potential economic effects) UK s large economy and fiscal union helps to: Get the most value from the remaining North Sea oil and gas reserves; Manage their eventual decline; and Smooth regional differences in demographics Smaller tax base/tighter budget means: Fiscal support for oil and gas industry less affordable; Tax rises and cuts to public spending to manage decline in oil and gas and deal with Scotland s more acute demographic challenges Scottish households and businesses benefit from the UK s low and stable interest rates Costs to taxpayer of higher interest rates The UK Dividend: At least 1,400 saved per Scottish person per year by staying part of the UK At least 1,400 per Scottish person per year in cuts to public spending and higher taxes under independence
14 Introduction In September 2014 people in Scotland will take one of the most important decisions in the history of Scotland and the whole of the United Kingdom whether to stay in the UK, or leave it and become a new, separate and independent state. In advance of the referendum, the UK Government will ensure that the debate is properly informed by analysis, and that the facts that are crucial to considering Scotland s future are set out. This is the fourteenth paper in the Scotland analysis programme. It presents the UK Government s analysis of Scotland s public finances over the next twenty years. The paper examines the key factors that will influence Scotland s public finances during this period, and compares the potential financial implications of independence with Scotland s position as part of the UK. This paper builds on the fifth paper in the series: Scotland analysis: Macroeconomic and fiscal performance, which highlighted how well Scotland performs as part of the union. It illustrated how the UK s fiscal union enables all parts of the UK to pool resources, benefit from economies of scale in public spending and share risks. Within this fiscal union, the UK Government has devolved responsibility for some 60 per cent of Scotland s public spending to the Scottish Parliament. The Scottish Government therefore receives stable and secure levels of funding as part of the UK, but is able to pursue its own policies in relation to key public services such as health, education, housing, policing and transport. Changes to the Scottish Government s budget as part of the UK are determined through the long-standing Barnett formula. This will continue alongside the implementation of the Scotland Act 2012, which will provide the Scottish Government with further powers to vary levels of tax and spending in Scotland from April 2015, and lead to the Scottish Parliament being responsible for funding around one third of its spending. While the current UK Government cannot commit future governments to retain the Barnett formula, all three of the main UK political parties have made clear that no changes are in prospect. The projections in this paper follow the same approach taken by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) in its Fiscal Sustainability Report (FSR) for the UK. For an independent Scotland, the projections include the firm policy commitments set out by the current Scottish Government in its recent White Paper. The projections also include the direct impacts of independence, such as transition costs and higher government interest rates. The projections therefore go further than the recent Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) report on Scotland s fiscal sustainability, which did not incorporate the impact of the current Scottish Government s policy commitments or all the direct fiscal consequences of independence.
15 14 Scotland analysis: Fiscal policy and sustainability The public finance projections in this paper are underpinned by data, assumptions and techniques from a range of independent expert bodies. The projections go out to , therefore covering the first 20 years in the event of independence. In comparison, the IFS and the OBR both project over a much longer timeframe, beyond Nonetheless, HM Treasury acknowledges that any long-term projections of public finances are subject to a large degree of uncertainty. As the OBR comment: It is important to emphasise that the long-term outlook for public spending and revenues is subject to huge uncertainties. Even backward-looking balance sheet measures are clouded by difficulties of definition and measurement. The long-term figures presented here should be seen as illustrative broad-brush projections rather than precise forecasts. Policymakers need to be aware of these uncertainties, but should not use them as an excuse for ignoring the long-term challenges that lie ahead. 1 The same message applies to the projections in this paper. For ease of comparison, the projections for an independent Scotland are in pounds Sterling. In practice, an independent Scottish state would need to choose which currency it would use which does not include the option of a formal currency union with the continuing UK, which has been ruled out by all three main UK political parties. For illustrative purposes the Scottish Government presents both a geographical share of North Sea oil and gas and a per capita share of North Sea oil and gas. 2 This paper includes a geographical share of UK North Sea oil and gas revenues in Scotland s overall revenues. This is for illustrative purposes only and does not reflect any UK Government position in the event of independence. Rather, by allocating the largest share of resources to Scotland it ensures that the subsequent analysis represents the most favourable case for an independent Scotland. As set out in Scotland analysis: EU and international issues, an independent Scotland would be a new state. It is very likely that it would have to go through some form of accession process to become a member of the EU. It would also have to enter into negotiations on the terms of its membership. It cannot be assumed that Scotland would be able to negotiate the favourable terms of EU membership which the UK enjoys. The terms of EU membership which the Scottish Government has said it wishes to secure is at odds with long-established conditions of EU accession; the problematic nature of some of the specific asks that the Scottish Government has said it intends to make may well render negotiations complex and lengthy, raising questions over whether they could be completed within the 18-month timeframe suggested by the Scottish Government. Terms of EU membership also require the unanimous agreement of all 28 Member States. Nonetheless, for simplicity, the fiscal analysis in this paper assumes that an independent Scotland is a member of the EU from OBR (2013), Fiscal sustainability report 2 Scottish Government, GERS and historical series, March 2014.
16 Introduction 15 Structure of the paper Chapter 1 considers Scotland s fiscal outlook as part of the UK, including the impact of demographic change and the expected decline in North Sea oil and gas revenues. Chapter 2 sets out the direct fiscal consequences of independence along with the impact of the firm policy commitments set out by the current Scottish Government. This is combined with the analysis in chapter 1 to project the public finances of an independent Scotland over the next twenty years. Annex A gives a detailed description of the analytical approach used to project the public finances of the UK and an independent Scotland over the longer-term.
18 Chapter 1: Scotland s fiscal outlook Scottish onshore tax revenues per person have been slightly lower than the UK average since devolution in Over the same time period, public spending per person in Scotland has been around 10 per cent higher than the UK average. Therefore, Scotland s onshore fiscal balance has been considerably weaker than the UK s over the same timeframe. Including a geographic share of oil revenues, Scotland s overall fiscal position has on average been broadly the same as the UK s since devolution, although much more volatile year-by-year due to the increased sensitivity of the Scottish fiscal position to fluctuations in oil revenues. As such, Scotland s public finances already rely on spending all of the revenues from a geographic share of North Sea oil and gas. There would be no fiscal benefit from independence: the revenues can t be spent twice. The persistence of these trends into the medium term, and the expected fall in oil and gas revenues, mean that various independent bodies forecast Scotland s fiscal position to be weaker than the UK s in the proposed year for independence by around 1,000 per person. This gap is expected to widen in the future as oil and gas revenues continue to decline and Scotland faces a more acute demographic challenge than the UK as whole. It is exactly these sorts of challenges that the UK s fiscal union acts to smooth. The challenges of an ageing population and volatile and declining oil revenues are shared across the UK in the same way that, for example, the benefits of windfalls in coal and oil revenues, or lower debt interest costs from low borrowing rates, have been and continue to be shared across the UK. This is the UK s integrated fiscal union in action pooling resources and sharing risks. Within this integrated fiscal union, Scotland benefits from stable and secure funding provided by the UK s fiscal model whilst further powers are being devolved to the Scottish Parliament through the Scotland Act This includes the creation of the Scottish rate of income tax, devolution of stamp duty land tax, landfill tax and borrowing powers. This will increase the autonomy and accountability of the Scottish Government, while enabling it to decide when and how to invest in Scotland s infrastructure.
19 18 Scotland analysis: Fiscal policy and sustainability 1.1 This chapter examines Scotland s fiscal outlook as part of the UK over the next 20 years. In particular, it explains how the UK s integrated fiscal union would act to pool resources and share risks across the whole of the UK. This would help to deal with some of the main fiscal challenges facing Scotland, including: the Scottish budget deficit, which in was slightly larger per head than the overall UK budget deficit; a divergence in the next few years between independent forecasts of the Scottish and UK fiscal position over the medium term, largely as a result of Scotland s reliance on North Sea oil and gas revenues, which have been revised down in successive forecasts; the expected long-run decline in North Sea oil and gas revenues; and more acute demographic pressures than the UK as a whole. 1.2 Each of these aspects is discussed in turn, as well as analysis of how the UK s fiscal union would act to support these challenges. Scotland s current fiscal position 1.3 Chart 1.A shows that Scottish onshore tax revenues per person have been slightly lower than the UK average since devolution in Over the same time period, public spending per person in Scotland has been around 10 per cent higher than the UK average. Therefore, Scotland s onshore fiscal balance has been considerably weaker than the UK s. Chart 1.A: Scotland s onshore fiscal position relative to the UK 120 Spending and revenues per head (indexed, UK=100) Scotland spending Scotland onshore revenues UK / / / / / / / / / / / / / /13 Source: GERS-14
20 Chapter 1: Scotland s fiscal outlook In the event of independence, the allocation of North Sea oil and gas revenues would be subject to negotiation. For illustrative purposes the Scottish Government presents both a geographical share of North Sea oil and gas and a per capita share of North Sea oil and gas. 1,2 On the basis of a geographical apportionment, Scotland s overall fiscal balance for the period since devolution is very similar to the UK s public finances over the same period, albeit much more volatile, as shown in Chart 1.B below. It shows how Scotland s public finances already rely on spending all of the revenues from a geographic share of North Sea oil and gas. So there would be no fiscal benefit from independence: the revenues can t be spent twice. Chart 1.B: Scotland s overall fiscal position relative to the UK 130 Spending and revenues per head (indexed, UK=100) Scotland spending Scotland total revenues UK / / / / / / / / / / / / / /13 Source: GERS Through the pooling of major tax revenues across the UK, Scotland therefore contributes a volatile revenue stream from North Sea oil and gas and receives secure and stable funding from the UK Government. The UK s fiscal union therefore protects Scotland from a more difficult set of fiscal choices. 1.6 In the absence of shared public finances, latest Scottish Government data show that in Scotland s fiscal position would have been almost 500 per head weaker than the UK. To fill this gap, Scotland would have faced a choice between implementing immediate spending cuts of 2.5 billion (which equates to almost a quarter of Scotland s health budget), increasing taxes by this amount or borrowing more in financial markets, thus increasing its budget deficit. An independent Scotland would have less flexibility than the UK to absorb shocks of this kind in its budget as it would be likely to pay higher borrowing costs. 1 Scottish Government, GERS and historical series, March This paper apportions UK oil and gas revenues, past and future, to Scotland according to a geographical share of North Sea oil and gas. This does not reflect any UK Government position in the event of independence. Rather, by allocating the largest share of resources to Scotland, it ensures that the subsequent analysis represents the best case for an independent Scotland.
21 20 Scotland analysis: Fiscal policy and sustainability Box 1.A: Scotland s current tax and spending levels relative to other countries According to the latest Scottish Government figures, Scotland s tax revenue since devolution has averaged 38 per cent of GDP (including a geographic share of North Sea oil and gas). The graph below compares this against a range of other small countries. Denmark Sweden Belgium Finland Austria Norway Luxembourg Slovenia Scotland Iceland Czech Republic Estonia Portugal Slovakia Ireland Total revenue (per cent of GDP) Source: Taxation trends in European Union, eurostat, Data for Scotland from GERS, Scottish Government, March The current Scottish Government, in their recent White Paper, referenced levels of public services achieved by some of these countries as a benchmark. Looking at neighbouring independent nations, such as Norway and Denmark, it is clear that they enjoy an independence bonus that allows them to deliver fairer societies. They are able to provide more targeted support for families with children and better levels of care for older citizens, and deliver measures to boost their economies, support higher standards of living and create more jobs. Tax revenues in Norway, Denmark, Finland and Sweden average 46 per cent of GDP, which is substantially higher than the 38 per cent of GDP that Scotland currently generates. As shown in the table below, these countries generate high levels of revenue partly through setting higher tax rates. VAT standard rate (%) Corporation tax main rate (%) Norway Denmark Sweden Finland UK Source: KPMG tax rates table, retrieved May The UK main rate of Corporation tax is being reduced to 20 per cent from April 2015.
22 Chapter 1: Scotland s fiscal outlook 21 These higher rates of VAT are also paid on a wider range of goods and services than in the UK. For example, a rate of 25 per cent is paid on almost all goods and services in Denmark whereas the UK has a wide range of zero-rated items (including most food, children s clothes and shoes, books and water) as well as various goods and services where VAT is applied at a reduced rate of 5 per cent (including domestic gas and electricity). Despite the ambition of the current Scottish Government to provide Scandinavian levels of public services, Scotland s Future actually committed to cutting both corporation tax and air passenger duty. Scotland s fiscal position in the next few years 1.7 As a result of the UK Government s action to cut the deficit, the independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecast UK public sector net borrowing to reach a small surplus in , and the economy to be operating at full capacity. 3 However, independent bodies forecast the fiscal positions of Scotland and the UK as a whole to continue to diverge in the years ahead, with Scotland s notional fiscal position progressively weaker relative to the UK as a whole, largely due to the downward revisions made by the OBR to its North Sea oil and gas revenue forecasts. North Sea oil and gas revenue forecast 1.8 North Sea oil and gas revenues make up a much smaller proportion of overall UK tax revenues than Scottish revenues. North Sea revenues averaged less than 2 per cent of total UK revenues in the past five years, while attributing a geographical share to Scotland would mean that they averaged 15 per cent of total Scottish revenues, fluctuating within a range of 10 percentage points, highlighting the volatility an independent Scotland would face This means that the successive forecast downgrades in recent years made by the OBR, in response to outturn coming in below forecast, would have had a much larger impact on forecasts for the public finances of an independent Scotland. This would have made it very difficult to plan public spending as highlighted by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research. 5 For example, tax revenues from oil and gas in were around 5 billion lower than the year before (a drop of more than 40 per cent). While the UK s broad and diverse economy is able to absorb this volatility, this equates to almost a half of Scotland s health budget or two thirds of Scotland s spending on education While revenues are volatile and in long-term decline, the government remains committed to maximising the significant remaining potential of the North Sea for the UK economy. The UK s large and diversified tax base allows the UK Government to support the oil and gas industry through policy action, which has a short-term cost, to encourage investment in the sector and ensure it continues to contribute to jobs and energy security for decades to come. For example, the UK government is providing upwards of 20 billion in tax relief for future decommissioning costs and has provided field allowances which supported over 7 billion of investment last year alone. 6 3 Office for Budget Responsibility, Economic and Fiscal outlook, March Scottish Government, GERS and historical series, March Assets and liabilities and Scottish independence, National Institute of Economic and Social Research, April 2014 (p. 5}. 6 Oil and Gas UK (2014), Activity Survey 2014.
23 22 Scotland analysis: Fiscal policy and sustainability 1.11 The UK Government can afford to do this because of the size and diversity of the UK economy. This helps encourage vital new investment that creates jobs and growth, ensuring the UK makes the most of this valuable resource in the long-term. In contrast, the government of an independent Scotland would have to contribute around 3,800 per head over ten times more than when costs are spread across the UK to match the 20 billion 7 guarantee the UK Government has made towards decommissioning in the North Sea Sir Ian Wood s review 8 into increasing oil and gas production clearly set out the size of the prize that still remains in the North Sea, which the size of the UK economy and the diversity of its tax base can help unlock. More detail on the support provided to the oil and gas industry by the UK Government and the Wood Review is outlined in Box 1.B. Box 1.B: The UK Government s support for the oil and gas industry The importance of the oil and gas industry The UK s oil and gas industry is hugely important to Scotland and the UK as a whole: It supports approximately 450,000 jobs in the UK, both directly and indirectly. 1 Industry estimates that approximately half of the oil and gas jobs supported across the UK were based in Scotland; Approximately 42 billion barrels of oil equivalent have been produced from the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) since licences were first issued in the mid-1960s, 2 with the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) estimating there is potentially another 20 billion still remaining; 3 In 2012, oil and gas provided some 69 per cent of the UK s total primary energy supply. 4 Production specifically from the UKCS was equivalent to 41 per cent of total UK primary energy demand; and Capital investment in the UKCS rose to 14.4 billion in 2013 the highest level of investment on record. 5 1 Oil and Gas UK (2013), Economic Report DECC (2014), Oil and gas: Field data. 3 Available at DECC website 4 DECC (2013), Digest of United Kingdom Energy Statistics Oil and Gas UK (2014), Activity Survey HMT estimate based on Oil and Gas UK (2013) Economic Report Wood, Sir I (2014) UKCS Maximising Recovery Review: Final Report
24 Chapter 1: Scotland s fiscal outlook 23 UK Government support for the industry The UK Government is committed to supporting investment in the oil and gas industry, a vital sector that provides jobs and growth across the United Kingdom. The UK Government has provided support to the industry in a number of forms: Field allowances: The UK Government has introduced new and extended field allowances to support the industry as extraction becomes more difficult. This includes a doubling of the value and criteria of the small field allowance, a 3 billion allowance to support investment and exploration in large and deep fields, aimed particularly at West of Shetland, a 500 million allowance for large shallow-water gas fields, and an allowance for incremental investment in older fields. At Autumn Statement 2013, the UK Government announced the introduction of a new onshore allowance to support onshore oil and gas projects including shale gas. The allowance makes the UK s tax regime for shale gas the most competitive in Europe. 6 Decommissioning relief: At Budget 2012, the UK Government committed to introducing a new contractual approach to provide greater certainty on tax relief for decommissioning costs upwards of 20 billion on the UK Continental Shelf. The first Decommissioning Relief Deeds have already been signed, starting to provide the certainty needed to unlock billions of pounds of additional investment. Ultra high pressure, high temperature cluster allowance: At Budget 2014 the UK Government announced it will introduce a new allowance for ultra high pressure, high temperature oil and gas projects and will consult on the details over the summer. Oil & Gas UK said the new allowance could be a game-changer for technically challenging prospects in the North Sea. 7 This support from the UK Government has helped generate record levels of investment. Oil & Gas UK estimate that around half of the record 14.4bn of investment in the North Sea in 2013 year was supported by government allowances. 8 The Wood Review Sir Ian Wood s review made a series of recommendations as to how to maximise future oil and gas production. The Review estimated this could deliver an additional 3 to 4 billion barrels of oil equivalent (boe) over the next 20 years. The government has accepted all of Sir Ian s recommendations, and the Chancellor announced at Budget 2014 that: the UK Government will review the oil and gas tax regime to ensure it continues to incentivise economic recovery as the basin matures, working with the new arm s length body created out of the Wood Review, with an initial report back at Autumn Statement 2014; the UK Government will task the new oil and gas body with reviewing how to encourage exploration and reduce decommissioning costs, with a report back at Budget 2015; and the UK Government has also confirmed the next steps for implementing the new oil and gas body. 6 Wood Mackenzie (2013), Upstream Insight: UK advances shale gas fiscal incentives. 7 Oil and Gas UK, Press Release, March Oil and Gas UK, Activity Survey 2014.
25 24 Scotland analysis: Fiscal policy and sustainability 1.13 While receipts have declined sharply in the last 3 years, the latest OBR forecast has oil and gas revenues relatively stable at around 3.5 billion a year from to , as shown in table 1.A. This is due to record levels of investment from the industry, partly as a result of UK Government action, as recognised by the OBR. Table 1.A: OBR UK oil and gas revenue forecasts billion a Outturn Forecast March December 2013 Diff. from December March Diff. from March Source: Office for Budget Responsibility a Numbers may not sum due to rounding 1.14 Since its December 2013 forecast the OBR has reduced its North Sea revenues forecast in every year of the forecast period. Its forecast for has been revised down by 0.3 billion from its December 2013 forecast and 1.6 billion from its Budget 2013 forecast These downward revisions continue a trend of successive UK oil and gas revenue forecast downgrades, as shown in the left hand panel of Chart 1C below, highlighting the uncertainty in forecasts of oil and gas revenues even in the short term. Outturn UK oil and gas receipts have come in an average of 20 per cent below year-ahead forecasts made by the OBR at successive Budgets, 9 with the OBR forecasting these lower revenues to continue into the medium-term The right hand panel in Chart 1C assigns Scotland a geographical share of outturn (consistent with both HMRC and GERS outturn shares) and OBR March 2014 forecast North Sea oil and gas revenues. This chart also shows the Scottish Government s most optimistic ( scenario 5 ) and most pessimistic ( scenario 2 ) forecasts from its March 2013 oil and gas bulletin. 10,11 9 This is also the case for two-year-ahead Budget forecasts, and one- and two-year-ahead Budget and Autumn Statement forecasts combined. 10 Scottish Government, Oil and Gas Analytical Bulletin. 11 Scenario 1 is based on applying a geographic share to the OBR s December 2012 forecast and is therefore not referred to as a Scottish Government forecast.
26 Chapter 1: Scotland s fiscal outlook The chart shows that the Scottish Government is substantially more optimistic about the medium-term path for oil revenues. Since publication of the Scottish Government s forecasts, Scottish oil revenue outturn has come in below the Scottish Government s most pessimistic estimate by around 2 billion in and over 3 billion in As the independent Centre for Public Policy for Regions (CPPR) have commented: These and out-turns for North Sea tax revenues highlight why the Scottish Government s use of the OBR forecasts as a lower limit, rather than a more central estimate, for future offshore revenues is problematic. 12 The CPPR also comment that the Scottish Government claims that OBR forecasts are too pessimistic seem odd when juxtaposed with this evidence of repeated over-prediction of production by DECC and OBR in recent years. 13 Chart 1.C: UK and Scottish oil and gas revenue medium-term forecasts a UK oil and gas revenue forecasts Scottish oil and gas revenue forecasts Outturn Forecasts billion 8 6 billion OBR Budget 2011 OBR Budget 2012 OBR Budget 2013 Outturn + OBR Budget 2014 Scottish Government most optimistic ( scenario 5 ) Scottish Government most pessimistic ( scenario 2 ) Outturn (GERS) + geographic shares (GERS) of OBR Budget 2014 UK forecast Outturn (HMRC) + geographic shares (HMRC) of OBR Budget 2014 UK forecast Source: Office for Budget Responsibility; Scottish Government; HM Revenue & Customs. a Scottish outturn is derived by apportioning UK outturn geographically according to both Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) and HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) historic shares. Scottish estimates based on OBR UK forecasts are derived by apportioning OBR Budget 2014 UK forecast by the geographic share in both Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) and HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) regional receipts The UK s broader and more diverse tax base helps to support the oil and gas industry and smooth the impact of volatile and unpredictable North Sea oil and gas revenues. Since Budget 2010 the OBR has revised down oil revenues by 21 billion over the 5 years to Instead of needing to cut spending, the Scottish Government has seen its budget increased by 2.2 billion over the 5 years to CPPR (2014) Analysis of Scotland s past and future fiscal position. 13 CPPR (2013) Reflections on the latest Oil and Gas related analysis by the Scottish Government and the Office for Budget Responsibility.
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